According to surveys, about 80% of us feel we have a book inside us, just waiting to be written. And that's a good thing, because as I explained in my recent training episode, writing a book is a great way to boost your credibility and attract new freelance clients.
However, most people will never write the book of their dreams, no matter how compelling the arguments may be to do so. Although the excuses vary, I think most people avoid writing a book because of one simple thing: fear.
And in my work with aspiring authors, I've found that most common fears are directly related to rejection and money.
Rejection. Every creative person I've ever met hates rejection and fears failure. The idea that some critic is going to say that the book you put your heart and soul into is the worst thing he's ever read is horrible to even contemplate. I struggled with this issue myself, and only after I got some good feedback on my books did I gain more confidence.
Although I worked through my own fears the hard way, over the years, I've learned another perspective on rejection and what it really means. Rejection is only rejection if you accept it. The most successful authors simply refuse to accept rejection.
What many people don't realize is that a lot of best-selling books were originally rejected by publishers. Sometimes repeatedly. Everyone from JK Rowling to Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield (of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame) had their books rejected. In fact, Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejectedÂ an amazing 140 times. If you've ever listened to Mark Victor Hansen talk about his experience, you'll realize that the man absolutely did not accept rejection. He believed in the book and kept going. (And going!)
Another thing you need to understand is that publishing is a business. Once you learn more about the publishing world, you discover that a lot of the time rejection has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the book itself. Often it's a business decision based on reasons you'll never know. From the outside, you have no way of knowing if a book publisher is about to release a book on the same topic you suggest in your proposal. So you can write the best proposal in the world and it can still be rejected for reasons completely out of your control.
Money. I'd argue that fear of losing money is behind a lot of business angst in general. Publishing is no different. Like most business endeavors, publishing a book can be expensive, both in terms of your time and out-of-pocket costs. After all, it takes time to write a book, which is time you aren't spending on billable work for clients.
If you opt to publish a book yourself, you may need to spend time learning new things like how to write a book proposal or how to self-publish a book. You'll undoubtedly need to invest in editorial services. If you publish the book yourself, you may also need to hire graphic designers to do the interior layout and cover.
Every writer experiences these fears at one time or another. I've written 12 books and gone through phases where I felt anxious and worried about each one.
But the difference between published and unpublished authors is that published authors feel the fear and write the book anyway!
Break The Project Down
The key to getting past your fears and writing the book is to break the process down into manageable steps. Despite what some hyped up "programs" about book writing would suggest, virtually no one really writes a book in one or two days.
If you think about a book as a series of articles or "chunks" of content, it's a lot less intimidating. To work as a book, the ideas need to relate to one another and work as a cohesive unit. Once you have settled on an overall topic for your book, these are the steps you'll need to go through to get it written:
- Brainstorm. If you have a blog, you have a great resource: your community. Look back at your most popular posts and see which ones have the most interesting comments. Now get out a sheet of paper and start brainstorming topic ideas. Also go back through your client emails and review your answers to common questions.
- Organize. Once you have brainstormed a list of topics, start grouping them. Tie related ideas together with more transitional ideas and topics. It may help to use a mind map or outlining software. Or even a white board and sticky notes. Whatever helps you get your creativity flowing.
- Edit. Once you have a basic outline or list, go through your ideas with an editor's eye. Be ruthless and throw out ideas or topics that are too broad, too complicated, or too difficult to write about. Your goal is not to write the Great American Novel. You want to keep your book workable.
- Write. Once you have your outline, writing the book becomes a matter of filling in the blanks. Once you have broken out each topic or outline point, they are small enough to work with. Think of each of these topics or outline points as an article and you'll find that finishing the book becomes fairly straightforward.
Not a Writer? You Can Still Take Action!
If you're reading this and freaking out because you're "not a writer," all is not lost. In fact, I just finished laying out a book for a client who actively hates to write. He's a professional speaker, non-technical and can barely type. But his book is coming out next week.
His secret: "talking his book."
Even if you don't touch type, you still can write a book. It's easy to use a mini-tape recorder or a speech recognition program to get your ideas on (virtual) paper. From there, you can get the audio transcribed and hire an editor to turn the content into a book.
The brainstorming and organizational process are the same, even if you opt to "talk the book." So don't skip those steps. But once you're ready to get the information out of your head, use the medium that works best for you.
Bottom line: If you have great content to share, don't let your fears or the ever-popular "I'm not a writer" excuse keep you from sharing the book inside you.
Your Next Steps
Forget about any fears you may have about writing a book. If you think that authoring a book would give you excellent credibility and help you land more and better clients for higher fees, then commit to getting it done. Give yourself some time, but don't make your deadline so far into the future that you lose momentum.
Then, commit to going through steps #1 and #2 (Brainstorm and Organize) above in the next 30 "“ 60 days. These two activities will give you the momentum (and excitement!) you'll need to get the project moving.
Susan Daffron, aka The Book Consultant (http://www.TheBookConsultant.com) owns a book and software publishing company. She spends most of her time writing, laying out books in InDesign, or taking her four dogs out for romps in the forest. She also is the Fearless leader of the Book Authors Circle (http://www.bookauthorscircle.com) mastermind group, a community of creative authors striving to publish and market quality books.